If you were only expecting big-breasted girls getting their clothes torn up in battle, you only have part of the picture for this adaptation of Dall-Young Lim‘s manga. Not only do the Void Texture “stigmata” embedded in their bodies regenerate their clothes, the female warriors known as Pandoras have to cope with getting their limbs chopped off, throats slit, and eyes gouged out too. It’s not quite Elfen Lied‘s level of gore, but the scenes depicted were pretty bloody in their own right.
While this episode seemed to use a cold open, in reality it served as an introduction about Pandoras and how they function and battle alongside their male Limiters against dimensional alien invaders called Nova, which laid the foundation for the science fiction side of the series. This includes how Pandoras can have their limbs repaired if they manage to survive, how they choose a Limiter younger than them due to a higher synchronization rate for their “Ereinbar Set”, and how that partnership allows a Limiter to use his Freezing ability to assist them in battle. It was a fair bit of preamble to get through, but I like how the writers decided to explain everything early on so viewers have a better idea of what’s going on when things pick up. With only twelve episodes slated, this adaptation probably won’t have the same luxury as the manga of slowly revealing things as they go. The same goes for the backstory on Aoi Kazuya‘s (Ichiki Mitsuhiro) sister Kazuha, whose death during the 8th Nova Crash four years ago wasn’t even expanded upon in the first four volumes of the manga, yet was the focus of this very first episode.
In addition to the obvious benefit of showcasing the more gruesome side to this series via the free-for-all “Carnival” taking place, both instructor Yumi Kim‘s (Watabane Akeno) history lesson and student council president Chiffon Fairchild‘s (Inoue Marina) explanation on Pandora/Limiter abilities served as a very good lead-in for Kazuya arriving at West Genetics and immediately latching himself onto the Untouchable Queen, Satellizer el Bridget (Noto Mamiko), who’s the heroine of the series. Compared to the manga that only had a single page indicating that Satellizer reminds Kazuya of his deceased sister, showing Kazuha’s valiant sacrifice and hearing her voiced by the same seiyuu make their unusual first meeting much more understandable. As a result, I was a bit surprised to see that only four or so pages of the first chapter were covered this episode, but felt that leaving off on the cliffhanger with Kazuya inadvertently freezing the queen who can’t stand being touched, and causing her to lose her first inter-Pandora battle at the hands of a very envious Ganessa Roland (Kitamura Eri) worked well in sparking further interest. Heck, I wanted to see the follow-up right away, even though I already know what’s coming up from reading way too much of the manga while researching for the Winter 2011 Preview, which suggests the same interest I had then has carried over nicely to the anime.
In terms of production, A.C.G.T’s work is a tad dated due to the basic shadows; however, I like the character designs, making the old school look less of a concern to me. If anything, the artwork is more akin to Studio Pierrot’s in Bleach and Naruto, both of which use arguably more simplistic animation styles. It’s definitely not something that I’d personally knock the series for since I don’t see it affecting my enjoyment in any way, but I figured it’s worth making mention of regardless. The music on the other hand is a real treat, from the opening theme by Nico Nico Douga singer MARiA to the soundtrack composed by Yokoyama Masaru. The latter’s musical pieces are very reminiscent of the ones he wrote for Queen’s Blade. Some were pretty epic-sounding and worth a listen whether you care to watch that series or not. For those wondering, yes, there is nudity in AT-X’s uncensored broadcast, which is good if you’re one of those people who absolutely can’t stand any televising censoring. Unfortunately, it seems to come with the trade-off of being in 4:3 aspect ratio, which I found odd since TBS even stopped doing this with their broadcasts. To add to the confusion, the opening and ending sequences retained their 16:9 ratio with black borders.
As for the characters themselves, we’ve only been formally introduced to a small portion of the cast thus far, so there are still plenty of faces that will make their presence felt in the coming episodes. Mamiko in strong female leading role again is another huge plus, as she seldom gets them and I really enjoy her acting in the ones she has. Witchblade and Mnemosyne are a couple of examples, the latter of which I feel is one of Mamiko’s best performances. As such, I’m already looking forward to seeing more of Satellizer, especially after this good start to the series.
* Episode end card.